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The Purpose of Your Life – Is It Predetermined or Random or Does It Matter?
“Our authentic vocation, our real work in this world, becomes the consequence of our lives. Our work can transform and overcome whatever traumas we experience and transform them into something useful for us and hopefully others.”
– Louise DeSalvo, Virginia Woolf scholar
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, both destiny and destiny mean “a predetermined state or end.” Fate means an inevitable and usually unfavorable outcome. Whereas destiny implies something predestined and often suggests a great or noble direction or end.
In other words, both fate and destiny infer that some predestination ends.
As for who or what or where this predetermined outcome comes from? Well, I suspect the answer depends on which belief system you most align with.
Regardless of what you believe and/or have personally experienced in life, the idea that our souls are here on earth to fulfill a purpose can be either comforting (especially if we feel we are on the “right” path), or disturbing. (if we feel rather lost and off track).
Or, if we believe that this whole exercise is just one big messy draw that just happens randomly, then even though we may not believe in any kind of predetermined plan or individual purpose, that doesn’t necessarily mean our lives aren’t working. does not make sense. Our lives may have the meaning we ascribe to them rather than some greater power.
However, just as I discovered in researching the possibility of life after death, it was only after I lost someone very dear to me that I suddenly became VERY interested in whether or not their body still exists, in some capacity, after death.
I suspect it’s the same with fate, destiny, and the possibility that our souls have some higher purpose for being here: maybe we don’t really think much about it until we’re forced to… until it really matters.
In my experience, life after a significant loss is when life’s big questions come to the surface. I think this is partly because searching for and perhaps finding a higher meaning in the wake of tragedy helps us make whatever torment we may be experiencing a little more palatable.
Do you believe in the idea that there is a “God’s Plan” for each of us?
God knows (pardon the pun) I heard it enough times in the days and weeks after my husband John’s death. And frankly, that particular phrase offered me little comfort. Instead, I was tempted to wind up and punch the person in the nose.
Because I found it presumptuous that people would tell me that John’s sudden – and easily preventable – death was part of some greater plan planned by God that may not even exist… and I best accept it as such.
To me, the concept reeked of apathy, especially when I realized that this “Divine Plan” was not something that any of us mere mortals would know. Rather, it should be enough that there is a plan, so no further questions are necessary.
But what’s the point of God having a grand plan if no one knows what it IS?
I think that’s where faith comes in.
However, perhaps because so many people told me that God had a plan for me and John, I began to think that they might be right. So what did I do? I’ve been trying to figure out the Plan – or at least our little parts.
I haven’t met with much success.
But now that almost 17 years have passed since his death, I have the freedom to see things much more objectively than in those early days. And I can’t rule out the possibility that there might be a plan at work. Or maybe it’s just the way I choose to frame the situation?
Here are some facts about our story:
1.) John and I argued about my procrastination as a writer. I have read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own several times. Woolf argued that in order for women to write fiction well, they needed a room of their own and a secure income. John thought it was ridiculous. He decided that motivation and me to sit down to write were much more important.
2.) The day before John died, we had our last argument about not writing, and I told him how scared I was of waking up 20 years later and still not having finished the book. He looked at me and said, “I guess you’re right about that… only if you know it’s going to be your choice.”
3.) Because John died in the line of duty and we had mortgage insurance, I was entitled to exactly what Virginia Woolf suggested: a secure income for the rest of my life and a whole house – fully paid off at 32 – to write on.
4.) Two weeks later I started writing what became my book, A Widow’s Awakening. It came out 8 years later…well under the 20 year time limit.
5.) A few years after his death, for some unknown reason, I took a playwriting course. My very first play script was called The Savior and it’s about John dying of a brain injury – with none other than Virginia Woolf as his spiritual guide.
And then there are the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund workplace safety initiatives. If John hadn’t died as a result of a preventable fall in an unsafe workplace, the Fund wouldn’t exist – and I certainly wouldn’t be a safety advocate.
So do I believe in fate, destiny and/or some sort of Divine plan?
Honestly, I don’t know WHAT I believe. But I believe there are much greater forces at play in our lives and our job is to get up every day and make the best of what’s in front of us. .. and everything else seems to fit together. Finally.
“God does not die the day we cease to believe in a personal divinity. But we die the day our lives cease to be illumined by the constant radiance of daily renewed wonder whose source is beyond all understanding.”
– Dag Hammarskjold, former UN Secretary General
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